It wouldn’t be a Wednesday morning lab without a cup of coffee from the Leaky Beaker and a smile from Ashraf Youssef. Anyone who frequents Wellesley’s Leaky Beaker in the science center has undoubtedly come into contact with Youssef.
Known for his generosity, larger than life smile and kind questions, Youssef is a cheerful presence behind the register. Many people know him as The Leaky Beaker Cashier Who Is Always Smiling, and he is beloved by students, faculty and staff alike.
Youssef is from Cairo, Egypt and has two sons who have grown up in the United States. They are currently 11 and 15, and it is apparent that he loves his family fiercely. “I have a long way to go with them!” he joked, with a fatherly eye-roll at the challenges and joys of raising two boys.
Deeply religious, faith is at the center of Youssef’s life. He is a member of the Coptic Church, a branch of Egyptian Christianity that traces its roots back to the gospel of Mark in the New Testament. Youssef attends church regularly and views the world through a spiritual lens. He loves to talk about the traditions that set Coptic Christianity apart from Roman Catholicism and equates many of the practices as being similar to other orthodox sects. He encourages people to do research about the traditions he holds dear and emphasizes the importance of his daily communion with God.
“We believe, in our church, we are here in transit on earth. 60, 70, 80, 90 years, it’s all about transit. It’s not our land here; our land is up there in heaven. When Jesus was on the cross, dripping with blood, He invited everyone nicely to be with Him. How beautiful is that? What kind of love He loves us with? He loves the whole world. All nationalities and all colors, He loves. We want to be with Him. But not because He scares us, no. It’s about love,” said Youssef.
Youssef’s faith in God naturally extends to a faith in humanity at large. His spiritual reservoir overflows in every part of his life, whether it’s in raising his children, helping his wife, chatting with students at Wellesley or running straight to his second job at a convenience store.
For Youssef, his job as cashier of the Leaky Beaker is not just a chance to check out Oreos and sushi but also a chance to spread hope.
“If I see anybody who needs some help, I do something. Money is not everything. If I pay for a student from my pocket, it doesn’t matter because money is nothing. I’m not going to have my money when I go to my coffin. Money is just a way to make somebody happy for a second, but it’s not happiness,” he explained.
Minutes later, as if the universe has to prove his point, a student buying a snack ended up a few cents short on her purchase. As the student began reaching to retract her order, Youssef waved her hand away and exclaimed, “Do not worry, I pay, I pay. It is only a few cents.” The student thanked him profusely and walked away with her lunch.
As someone who has worked at Wellesley for 12 years, Youssef elaborated on why he enjoys working at this college.
“Wellesley is a great place to work. Not just because of the benefits, but also because 100 percent of the students are fantastic and most of the people who work here are nice. For 12 years now, I’ve been working here. It’s not coming into a job, it’s like I’m coming into happy,” he said.
Although he is not one to complain, Youssef relayed that most of his days are spent working. He works two jobs throughout the week, starting his workdays at 7:15 a.m. and ending them around 9:30 p.m., working a total of 14 hours a day.
“I work not because I love to work or just to make my family happy but because it is what we must do. I think once my boys go to college, I’ll have to get three jobs!” he joked. “But I enjoy my job, my life, my family, and I know I’m not spending a lot of time with the family, but it’s a part of life. Once I sleep five hours, it’s good enough for me. I just keep going.”
Despite his personal beliefs, Youssef maintains that true strength is helping anyone who needs it, regardless of who they are or what they believe in. He finds it easy to celebrate both the diversity of Wellesley and his own spiritual worldview.
“When I help the people here, I help the people for myself, not because anyone tells me to. But I’m not helping them to force them toward a certain way. Just when people ask me, ‘why are you happy all the time?’ no one knows what is inside here.” At this, he pointed to his chest. “I leave my house and even if I have a problem, I put it out of my mind because I have to work happy. And when people ask, I just tell them that Jesus is in my heart. There are lots of people here who follow all religions. I’m not here to force people; I just tell them how I am.”